Written by Jo Webb, Talent Acquisition Partner

Flex is best: A human-first approach to flexible working

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As a recruiter, I’ve seen many changes in the way people work. Not that long ago, it was the norm for people to work above and beyond hours without compensation. Many of us have travelled across the country for hour-long face to face meetings. Or gone to other offices, just to sit in a room with people you wouldn’t normally sit in a room with. It’s nuts when you think about it now, but it’s the way it was.

The big shift

Often, it will take a big cultural or global shift to make an impact on the way we work, and I think we can all agree the pandemic was just that! Almost immediately, the majority of office-based staff being told to work from home. And that was it. After all these years of asking permission to work from home it happened, it worked, people were still productive – sometimes people were more productive. But almost three years later (I know, it’s like a fever dream!!) what’s the situation now?

I’m new to the research sector in recruitment terms. I knew this was a niche market and that sourcing candidates would be a challenge. But the needs of people in research are not unique. They’re delivering a product using their expertise, they’re busy people with deadlines – but like us all, they’re real people with real lives outside of the office.

When I joined IFF, it was clear that we were doing what we could to support flexible working. We balance business needs with a level of flexibility, which is honestly, really accommodating. People can work earlier or later depending on what suits their lives, be it kids, needing rest, exercises classes or just working better, later in the day. As long as you’re available during core hours, we’re really quite good at treating people like adults who are capable of delivering their responsibilities, while also living their own lives. It’s incredibly refreshing.

The numbers don't lie

Data tells us that people want more flexibility, especially after the pandemic – but businesses aren’t always willing to accommodate. I do wonder if businesses are trying to maintain an approach to flexible working the same way they would sick leave; this is the policy and that’s that. But flexibility looks different to everyone: the manager, living with his partner, needs to walk his dog before coming into work, the single mum needs to pick up her child from after school club at 4, the graduate who really enjoys that 9am spin class. We’re all different.  Let’s be bold enough to allow true flexibility in working policies – while keeping business needs at the forefront.

Honesty is the best policy

True flexibility is a balance – and right at the heart of that balance, is honesty. Being open and honest with your team about what you can and can’t accommodate. And in turn, we’re putting trust in them to be honest back. It’s an exchange isn’t it? We all have to be in it together. Staff must recognise they have a job to do, and businesses must realise employees are human first… Which is exactly what we do at IFF.

Useful links and research:

If you’re interested in reading more, this is an interesting report on flexible working you can access here and explore trends from a CIPD article published last year.